“It will not be and I’m told it cannot be under the planning act.”

Whatever your views on any proposed alternatives to the Maze site for the new multi-sports Stadium, with the incentive of Olympic qualifying soccer matches carrot-like on the horizon, you’d be forgiven for imaging that the Sports Minister, the DUPs Edwin Poots, would have the responsibility to decide from any proposals after his recently imposed deadline of 30th June.. except that the First Minister, DUP leader Ian Paisley seems to have already ruled one of the potential proposals out.. and it looks suspiciously like his reasons are due to the vicinity of his own church.Here’s the BBC report again

First Minister Ian Paisley has ruled out plans for a stadium at Belfast’s Ormeau Park, saying it would affect five churches, including his own.
Mr Paisley said it would not be “convenient” to have Sunday School children arriving in buses with a greyhound track outside the door.

He added: “It will not be and I’m told it cannot be under the planning act.”

Belfast City Council is considering a possible stadium, incorporating a greyhound park, at the park.

[How about without the greyhound track? – Ed]

There’s also another important point to raise, as it seems to have disappeared from more recent statements, about the criteria for the stadium proposal.

On the 19th June, while maintaining the Maze plan was the best option available, Sports Minister Edwin Poots was reported as saying

““Since I was appointed, I have said that I am willing to consider alternatives to the Maze/Long Kesh site, provided they meet certain criteria. However, time is very short and if the stadium is to be a reality in time for the 2012 Olympics, then we need to move forward.

A multi-sports stadium must be delivered to meet the 2012 Olympics timetable, it must be supported by the governing bodies of the relevant sports, be economically viable and be consistent with government’s wider objectives of a shared future.”

But when he set out the criteria, in an official statement, which any alternative proposal would have to meet there was a subtle, but telling, difference.

“Any alternative location needs to be delivered in time, to be supported by the Governing Bodies of the three sports, Soccer, Rugby and Gaelic, be economically viable and most importantly, be consistent with the wider Government objectives of a Shared Future.[added emphasis]

“What I am being asked to do is to stop or overturn a decision which was made two years ago to locate the Multi-Sports Stadium at the Maze/Long Kesh. However, I cannot stop a process unless I am given viable alternatives.

“To date none of the alternatives discussed with me have demonstrated that they can satisfy the criteria.”

And how could they, if the “wider Government objectives of a Shared Future” include a multi-sports Stadium at the Maze site? And that is the most important criteria… more important than economic viability?

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  • mojo

    Big Ian says No to Norn Iron!

    Never! Never! Never!

  • Pete Baker

    Wrong, mojo.

    Big Ian’s saying ‘Yes’.. to his Norn Iron.

    Let’s see which parties disagree.

  • austin

    Will Paisley and the rest of the Underground Resistance climb to the top of the Skateboarders hill in Ormeau Park waving their Firearms Crtificates?

    ‘Norn Iron -The First Minister doesn’t like us, we don’t care.’

  • cynic

    Why is it nmot consistent with a shared future? The Ormeau / Ravenhill area is now majority Catholic but is also in East Belfast. Who knows what the mix will be by the time its built?

  • austin

    There’ll be no Stand up for the Ulstermen in the Ormeau Park-no terracing either, if Paisley gets his way.

  • Paul

    Mr Paisley said it would not be “convenient” to have Sunday School children arriving in buses with a greyhound track outside the door

    Pity, that would have been some greyhound track if it was going to stretching all the way down to the Martyrs’ Memorial.

  • Pete Baker

    Before the comments concentrate even further on the man rather than the ball.

    I’ll just point out that the First Minister, by himself, doesn’t have the power he seems to think he does.

    Now if we can focus on some of the detail from this point on it might help any discussion of the actual topic.

  • Bigger Picture

    I know for a fact that Big Ian’s opposition to Ormeau Park is exactly because it’s close to his church. However giving the recent attendence’s at the Martyr’s i dont understand what the big deal is…not that many people would be effected.

  • austin

    Pete, essentially this is a case of the First Minister stating ‘not in my back-yard’.

    Nothing new or particularly immoral in a senior politician anywhere doing that surely?

    One has to look only at the sweeteners offered to the likes of Jackie Healey-Rae to see that this is what passes for politics nowadays?

  • Pete Baker


    Due to our particular “indigenous deal”, the First Minister is not a Prime Minister.. despite what he may think.

    As I said previously, let’s see who points that out to him.. and the Sports Minister whose decision he has pre-empted.

  • Paul

    He added: “It will not be and I’m told it cannot be under the planning act.”

    Well, if that is true, then someone should have pointed it out a lot earlier one and we wouldn’t have wasted so much time and hot air on here talking about it.

    This is Paisley with his vicar and not First Minister hat on, a few parishoners have been bending his ears about the good Protestant Sunday being disturbed by all those GAA fans coming in (because that’ll be the main sport using it on Sunday)- pure good old fashioned Paisley bigotry in other words.

    Robinson, as has been pointed out, before will be the man with the biggest influence on this one and my money is on nothing new being built, too hard to justify new sports stadiums when money is being taken from more deserving causes.

  • Rory

    Precisely because of the proximity of his church and his anticipated annoyance, if the proposal goes ahead,it would surely be expected that the First Minister declare his interest, withdraw from any debate and refrain from any decision process or influence thereupon. Would it not?

    In any case, I had always thought that children were quite delighted to see dogs running where they presented no threat. Surely it cannot be the exercise of childish delight (as with Sunday swinging in the park) that exercises our now (politically) mature First Minister?

  • PeaceandJustice

    I thought all the options were being considered by the Sports Minister? Except we’ve had Ian Paisley Jnr supporting the Maze and the Sports Minister claiming to be impartial but setting artificial deadlines for the Belfast bid. And now Ian Paisley Snr is supporting the Maze. What a farce.

    Why do certain members of the DUP support a terrorist shrine at the Maze (to quote Sammy Wilson)? The city options make the most sense – just look at the great stadiums like the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. We need either a new stadium in Belfast or Windsor Park should be refurbished.

    As the GAA have their own stadiums, there is no reason for them to be involved.

  • Bigger Picture

    I don’t think this is the end of this debate by a long shot. From a few of my own sources there is alot of unrest within DUP members in Belfast including Sammy Wilson, Nigel Dodds, Nelson McCausland, William Humphrey, Chris Stalford and Diane Dodds. I think we could start to see a definite split in DUP views on this area and i wouldn’t be suprised if we heard more on this by the weekend!

    How come Paisley is morally repulsed by a greyhound track near his church but can stomach a full blown IRA memorial at the Maze?? Lets see him try and defend that one…

  • GavBelfast

    It’s a cert for the courts then.

    2012 Olympics in Belfast when London has all the facilities and more? Aye right ….

  • greg

    ‘As the GAA have their own stadiums, there is no reason for them to be involved.’

    The mask slips !!

    No Orangedome for Belfast, well done the first minister.

  • Chris Donnelly

    A number of points arise out of this.

    1. Paisley doesn’t have the power he thinks he does- as Pete has rightly pointed out. Without Sinn Fein support, the project ain’t going anywhere- Maze or Ormeau.

    2. On Paisley’s preference for the Maze/ Kesh site, it would appear that the OFM/DFM will be united in this view as Sinn Fein long ago committed themselves to this location as the preferred venue.

    3. As part of the Maze/ Kesh deal, there will be a Long Kesh conflict transformation centre and a number of important historical buildings from the former prison will be preserved- one of the H Blocks, Prison Hospital and a watchtower. So the DUP will have to bite the bullet on that one.

    4. Poots’ reference to the ‘shared future’ criteria is indeed intriguing- one to watch for the future.

  • The World’s Gone Mad

    ‘2012 Olympics in Belfast when London has all the facilities and more? Aye right …. ‘

    Why not? The Olympic football tournament is normally played across the country of the host city e.g. in Sydney 2000, the football tournament was played from Adelaide to Brisbane, in Atlanta it was held in Washington, Alabama, Florida as well as Georgia. If Belfast has the facilities then there is no reason to not hold matches there.

    What is this talk of Olympic qualifying matches? Presumably, rather than ‘qualifying matches’ they actually talking about the group stages of the Olympic tournament?

  • David D

    Watching Let’s Talk.

    Why is the standard of this programme so low? I’m now convinced it’s only about 20 per cent down to the rubbish panels.

    Most of the reason is that Mark Carruthers is o appallingly stiff as a presenter. No bite. Lacks the smoothness of David Dimbleby type.

    Tonight, he made me feel nervous everytime he interrupted with “briefly” and looked like he was about to drive over a cat. Surely a TV presenter should be able to handle time better.

    Mark if you are reading this – nothing personal mate. Just please shake off the stiff style. Lift the level of the discussion, because your current style dumbs it all down into silly one sentence comments.

    I can’t watch this programme any more.

  • Crataegus

    God this place is plain stupid and deserves to sink.

    Because there are ‘important'(?) historical buildings does not mean we should of necessity develop the site in any particular manner. Pity we cant relocate the Assembly there and use the current building as a much needed hotel.

  • GavBelfast

    David D,

    Or could virtually all of our politicians and quangoists be just pretty crap?

  • For all those who think I’m a knee-jerk pro-development fascist… Ormeau Park is the biggest open space in inner city Belfast and it is *not* the right place to be building this.

  • Pete Baker


    As I said, whatever your views on any proposed alternatives to the Maze site for the new multi-sports Stadium..

    ..this is about a First Minister attempting to pre-empt a decision by a Sports Minister.

  • Bill

    What is all the fuss about?? This bollocks has been going on now for years we could have built the road the Damascus by now. The Maze/Long Kesh is a no go!! Who in there right mind would want a stadium were 80% of public opinion is against. This 500 + acres would be much wiser used in building non-denominational housing. Ormeau Park or even Victoria Park are great locations..

    Why do we have to keep bringing f%$#ing religion into everything we do. Either a stadium in greater Belfast or just forget about the whole scenario. Maze/Long Kesh is and should forever be a no go!!! I hear Ladas Drive might be a consideration?? once the PSNI let it go!!!

  • willis

    Sunday school? Greyhound racing?????? We are getting into Ronald Reagan circa 1988 territory.

  • páid

    Build the tucking thing in Belfast!

    Stadiums belong in cities.

    Transport, atmosphere, history, accommodation, pubs, crack.

    Or everyone drive to a soulless car park, and drive home again.

  • Paul

    Whilst “World is Mad” is quite right to point out that qualifying matches have been spread around outside the host city during the Olympics, Poot’s original statement should be looked at again:

    Up to three qualifying soccer matches for the 2012 Olympics could be played in NI if the national stadium is ready.

    Sports Minister Edwin Poots, DUP, said he had received assurances from Seb Coe, chairman of the London games organising committee

    Poots has received assurances that up to three “qualifying” matches could be played in NI if the national stadium is ready.
    Not much of a cast-iron assurance of anything there, really.

    Also, only 39% of the tickets were sold for the football tournament in Athens 2004; unlike the World Cup Finals and European Championships football fans simply don’t travel for these tournaments. 39% of the proposed Maze capacity would be something like 16,000 spectators.

  • cynic

    Er….up to includes 0 …and why would we want them? Where would the thousands of fans stay in Belfast?

    This is play politics to avoid real politics. Bread and circuses …but dont mention the water!

  • DK

    “How come Paisley is morally repulsed by a greyhound track near his church but can stomach a full blown IRA memorial at the Maze??”

    Because its not an “IRA memorial” – it’s a memorial to all the prisoners (most were loyalist remember) as well as their guards and the victims. The clue is in the name “conflict transformation centre”. The’re will hardly be a giant statue of Bobby Sands with a stream of americans laying flowers at its base.

    Anyway – back to Paisley: shows once again that religion is the main driver for this man. He could hardly bear to preach with hundreds of GAA fans wandering around outside. I have heard that some of these fans may be republicans and even bigots who might not be averse to chucking stones at the church; and indeed some of the parishioners may reply/instigate in kind. Which is, of course, an aspect of the public order arguement against a stadium in the Ormeau park.

  • GavBelfast

    We saw something else in Paisley’s appearance last night after he emerged from his conclave while making his pronouncement – that threatening, contemptuous gaze, where the book of the voice is enjoined by the menace of the bared teeth scowling above the gums on the lower lip.

    He thinks he’s Pope all-right, but Dr Jekyll would be a more appropriate comparison, only now the nasty side isn’t for his former enemies (now his chums) but anyone outside his JOINT administration who he disagrees with.

  • Doctor Who

    This is a far too important decision to be left in the hands of Mr.Poots.

    He has shown himself to be uncompromising both with his one week deadline and all major study plans stating that the Maze site is completely wrong.

    It is also worth noting that Poots himself is not a sporting man, he has never watched a Northern Ireland match, he has been to a few Ulster Rugby matches and I persume he has never been at a GAA ground in his life.

    His only argument for the Maze is that it will be able to accomodate more car drivers than Belfast. This argument doesn´t stand up when you consider that Belfast has 100,000 cars arriving in the city on a daily basis. He ignores the fact that in an age when we should be encouraging more people to use public transport, the Maze has no infrastructure to accomodate this, one could also expect no rail line to be built beside the new proposed white elephant.

    What he should do is come clean and state he is towing the govt. line, it is a political decision and if an investor came in tomorrow and proposed a cost effective plan for a stadium in Belfast at no cost to the tax payer, it still wouldn´t matter.

    What this proposal needs is clear transparency. Public debate and accountability. The DUP are seriously underestimating just how emotive this matter is.

    One has to wonder wether Poots has bothered to take a look at Cardiff´s splendid Millenium stadium and see exactly how this spectacle has rejuvenated the centre of Cardiff. He talks of the lifeless Reebok stadium now being acceptable to the fans of Bolton Wanderers after heavy initial criticism, although you would be hard pushed to find a single Bolton fan who wouldn´t perfer their stadium actually in Bolton.

    Bolox Henry has signed for BArcelona must go….